A Michigan State University Philosophy professor is working with a research team to develop a code of ethics for publishing in the field of philosophy. This project, entitled “Conduct Unbecoming: Toward a Code of Publication Ethics in Philosophy,” has received a $75,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Kyle Powys Whyte, Timnick Chair in the Humanities and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Community Sustainability at MSU, is one of the principal investigators (PI) of this publication ethics initiative. Other co-PIs include Kris Sealey, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at Fairfield University; Amy E. Ferrer, Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association; Rebecca Kennison, Executive Director and Principal at K|N Consultants; Yannik Thiem, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Studies at Villanova University; and Adriel M. Trott, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Gender Studies Steering Committee at Wabash College.
“It’s an honor to be working on this project with my esteemed colleagues,” said Sealey, who is the lead PI. “We all understand philosophy to be not only a site out of which bodies of knowledge are produced, but – more importantly – a site out of which producers of knowledge are legitimized as such. So what professional philosophy does within its confines has implications for the broader world. It is therefore crucial that philosophers attend to the ethical standards that ought to apply to editorial decisions, review and citation practices, and publication decisions within the profession. It’s particularly important to do so, given the challenges of diversity, representation, and equity that professional philosophy has historically faced.”
The project team will spend the next few months working with the philosophy publishing community on developing publication policies, best practices, and recommendations for a code of publication ethics. The goal is to create a resource that journal editors, publishers, and professional societies, both in philosophy and in the humanities more broadly, can use and adapt.
I very much want this project to play a key role as one of the needed efforts to lessen systematic discrimination in academic peer review.
“I very much want this project to play a key role as one of the needed efforts to lessen systematic discrimination in academic peer review,” Whyte said. “While this is important for all philosophers, I am personally invested in the possibility that this work could help advance the careers of people working in areas of philosophy that are underrepresented in journal publications, such as the diverse historical and contemporary traditions of Indigenous philosophy.”
Some of the issues the initiative will address include evolving forms of scholarly misconduct, diversity in citation and engagement practice, varieties of plagiarism, and implicit bias in research, peer review, and editorial practices, as well as correcting the scholarly record when missteps occur. In order to address widespread disagreement about these issues, the grant will bring editors, scholars, and publishers together to develop a set of explicit and clear guidelines.
“Recent publishing controversies, as well as a more general awareness of diversity issues in the field, have brought increased attention to publication ethics in philosophy,” Ferrer said. “This project aims to explore the intersection of these topics and develop guidance that scholars, editors, and publishers alike can use to ensure that they produce scholarship that meets the highest ethical and intellectual standards. I am proud to be a member of the team working on this important project, which has the potential to make the discipline better for generations to come.”